Do Most Drug Cases Go To Trial Or Do They Plead Out?
Most cases are settled by plea deals, a conservative estimate is about 90%. Every case is individual, and every case is going to have its own strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, the client might be pulled along because they are the codefendant and are the least culpable, but you’re still stuck because they’re not going to sever anyone.
One reason to settle with a plea deal is if the client has prior convictions that the DA doesn’t know about, or if they get convicted for a second possession for sales the client will most likely go to prison. Another reason why a client may want to take a deal is if the federal government is investigating a state client and a deal has been worked out with the state DA. The DA is not going to refer it to the federal government, or it may help get the feds to back off. That can be a major motivating reason to take a deal because the sentences given at the federal level are always a lot longer.
Again, every case is individual, and if the case involves immigration, federal charges looming, or mandatory prison, such issues are going to heavily weigh on whether a client takes a deal or not.
What Factors Do You Consider When Determining Whether To Take A Case To Trial Or Not?
A major criteria we consider when determining if we should take a case to trial depends on whether the client can testify. A lot of times, our clients have priors. Drug sale priors, drug possession priors, or transportation priors may not come into evidence unless they testify. Testifying opens the door for prior convictions or other felonies that can impeach them. Beyond that, we need to consider how the client will come across to a jury. Some clients get really self-righteous and start screaming at the DA, while others meltdown on the stand because they have never done it before. What we see a lot of is Clients failing to remember very helpful, truthful facts as testifying is very stressful.
Also, we need to consider whether we have defense witnesses that are able to testify based on credibility issues or prior criminal convictions. Some potential witnesses may bring a lot of damaging baggage with them. These are just some of the things that need to be evaluated.
Leading up to the trial, the defense attorney will draft motions in limine which are trial motions that request the court to admit certain evidence, restrict the prosecution’s evidence, or exclude the prosecution’s evidence. We then get sent out to a trial courtroom and typically litigate these motions. Then they bring in a panel of about 100 people to the courtroom to start jury selection.
That can take a day to three days depending on the number of codefendants, the complexity of the issues, or the prejudicial issues that might be in the case. Once the jury is picked, then the district attorney and the prosecutor will give opening statements, and the defense has an opportunity to make one as well. Then the prosecution calls their witnesses. After each witness testifies, the defense has a chance to cross-examine them. If the defense is going to put on a case, they can give an opening then and call witnesses. The client can also be called, other witnesses, and even an expert or forensic toxicologist. Afterward, the attorneys and judge will meet to decide and instruct the jury. Both sides will then give closing arguments and then you sit around and wait for the jury to come to a verdict.
With all of that in mind and educating your client about the process, the client may realize that they can’t get through such a process.
For more information on Litigation Of Drug-Related Cases In California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 484-0906 today.